By Berfu Serce

October 10, La Dynamo-Pantin

Elise Caron/ Christophe Rocher/ Nicole Mitchell -First Part-

Eve Risser/ Sylvaine Helary/ Fred Longbergholm/ Mike Reed –Second Part-

First Part

The place was a bit far away from the center of Paris. It was a suburb. When we were going to the place we saw some men who were trying to sell publicly some smuggled products like cigarettes. There was lots of rubbish on the grounds. It is the place where migrants live in predominantly. There were people who dressed traditionally. Thus it was a kind of the place where the ‘outsiders’ live in, conventional order fails to prevail yet their own understanding of order is in the power. When we got the place where the concert holds, the atmosphere was changed a bit. There were relatively ‘chic’- according to the mainstream notion of chicness- people who were waiting the concert in the hall. They were eating something and drinking wine in the meantime. It was like a distinctive place yet at the same it was in the middle of what is distinct from. After a while the concert began. The musicians dressed casually in a modern way. The concert hall was arranged in an intimate way. All audiences were more or less at the same height above the ground. There were no hierarchically designated places for anyone. Everyone could choose where to sit. There were even some who was sitting on the ground. The musicians took to the stage without looking to each other’s faces as if they were all alone at the stage as if they were there individually. As the musicians were playing, they all closed their eyes mainly. They made very little eye contact. They improvised the music right there with the help of each’ self, life, feeling, experience. There was no predetermined way for their music because of the nature of improvisation. Yet they managed very well. Sometimes I closed my eyes and tried to listen each one separately. I could hear the parts smoothly and I enjoyed the music as a whole as well. There was an order in their chaos. The music was not an ordinary music that I was familiar with. There was no meaningful word in any language, there were just sounds, voices and musical instruments that were used sometimes in a different way than it is supposed to be played. The vocalist sometimes used her hand as an instrument and sometimes she hit her mouth to make sounds. There were times when she took out of tune yet it was obvious that the main concern was not ‘the perfectionist beauty’ that we all get accustomed to. The main concern was the self-expression, self-actualization of each, to be able to exist with their plural identities all together. The voice of the singer had very particularities at the same time. The voice of herself was the signature of herself. A signature that was changing continuously, have more than one character at the same, not bounded to any border. Sometimes her voice turned into a bas tone, sometimes it turned into a soprano. Sometimes it seemed as if she was moaning and sometimes as if she won the palm. And there was nothing wrong with inconsistency because the self is covered by that very inconsistency. As Nicole Mitchell was playing the flute, she could make sound at the same time. I had great difficulties to understand that the voice was coming from Nicole Mitchell, because I didn’t it regard as possible that she could play and sing at the same time. The instruments are used to make great quantity of different tones. The flute could make a sound of splash. They decided when to finish a song with the help of that very moment, that atmosphere like all the other decision they made at the stage while playing. For instance the vocalist looked very relax. She was leaning to piano for a while and then she listened the music a bit. After she looked her flute and decided to play at that very moment. Afterwards she stopped playing and kept quite for a while. Then she decided to sing again and sang. The control over time and what one did belonged to them and the atmosphere. They were the only authority over themselves. I would say there was not a set system but a set of changing possibilities. The possibilities of being woman and man at the same time, expressing sadness and victory at the same stage, using the modern instruments in a way that it sounds traditionally, in an unusual way… They were reinventing all the possible way of being right there. Being sexless, nationless, languageless, meaningless… They resembled a primitive tribe even they dressed in a modern way. Because they were naked at the stage with their all possible versions of existences. As we all agreed , the tone of your voice is your soul. There is singularity in everyone’s voice; and here there were many tones of everyone’s voice not one and only voice. Different personalities make them what they are and they expressed and maybe discovered at that very moment with the free setting of jazz. ‘’We are as attentive to their inner differences, their inner contradictions, their segmentations and their fragmentations as we are to their already-completed homogeneity, their unity and so on.’’[1]

There was an audience sitting at the front whose eyes are closed. He made me think that he could be nodding off or be losing himself with the rhythm of the music. And I thought whether there is any difference between them for that time. Because the music was familiar enough to evoke mother’s womb, it was telling us an issue that is old enough for someone to fall asleep. That was freedom, humanity, existence and realizing yourself. That’s why for me there was no difference between nodding off and losing yourself at that time. The source of both was the same. While you were losing yourself with the rhythm you found yourself asleep. The sound of music makes you sleepy, it provides what you need to fall asleep : serenity of being yourself. That music resets you, and when you open your eyes again you feel in a different way.

Second Part

What they play first seemed to me as a kind of annoying noise. The noise coming from piano was sizzling and annoying. Yet after that the vocalist started to sign harmoniously with that ‘noise’. While other musicians were participating in the music, the music took completely a different form from what it was. Each particular ‘noise’ gained a place within the whole and it made the music ecstatic as a whole. Even when the musicians didn’t play anything, they closed their eyes and listened what the others were playing and they were swaying. The pianist got my attention most. She seemed to me a bit impatient and furious as if she got something that is obliged to get ready by her and she got limited time to do that. As if she was doing her best to get ready that ‘something’ but there was very little possibility to be successful. She used not just her hands to play the piano yet her elbows. Sometimes she stood up as she was playing as if she couldn’t able to not stand. She was there with her whole body, her whole soul like the other musicians. Everyone was so concentrated to what they were playing. They felt what they were playing. When the pianist wasn’t playing the piano, she was doing something over the piano which that I couldn’t see. She was replacing something over the piano repeatedly with the same impatient and furious feeling as she playing. What she did

seemed to me as if she was trying to dig the ground and seed ‘something’ into it. That ‘something’ could take many forms depending on who you are. She offered an open possibility to interpret in your own way. She led you think about what that ‘something’ is for you. She didn’t dictate any meaning to that something. She offered me that ‘something’ to be able to get me involved in what they were doing as not any other yet as ‘me’. Instruments were used in quite different ways like in the first part. The cello was playing with not just fiddlestick but also with hands. And sometimes there was an electronic sound coming from the cello that is not supposed to come from the cello usually.

Overall, the concert went beyond the limits of all expectations, went beyond the scantiness of all obligations and ‘supposed to’.

I think this concert was exactly what Stuart Hall said : That is the politics of living identity through difference. It is the politics of recognizing that all of us are composed of multiple social identities, not of one. That we are all complexly constructed through different categories, of different antagonisms, and these may have the effect of locating us socially in multiple positions of marginality and subordination, but which do not yet operate on us in exactly the same way. [2]

I thought the way the musicians performed was an effective politics of living identity through differences.

I found the answer of the question posed by Stuart Hall : ‘Can identity itself be re-thought and re-lived in and through differences? ‘ And my answer is ‘evet’. [3]

October 12/ Royaumont Abbey

Nicole Mitchell/ Ballake Sissoko

The concert took place very far away from Paris. It took us 40 min. to arrive the concert place from the center. We took the suburban train all together from the center because we didn’t know how to go. As we were going far from the center, I realized that we were going far from all noise, pollution, crowd and all exhaustive things of the center as well. The way to go to Abbey was as magnificent as itself. Abbey was a quite different from the other concert place with its silence, nature, green areas and tranquility. It was an isolated place, it was hygienized from namely all the ‘mess’ that a suburb could have had: poverty, bargaining for their living, that the authority give them the cold shoulder and struggle of life… There was not a struggle for living, there was a life at present. When we got the place, there were a few hours for the concert starts so we had time to enjoy its ‘beauty’.

After a while the concert started. Because there wasn’t a backstage, the musicians got the stage passing by the audiences. They staged all together like a group rather than individuals. With their stance at the stage they looked like as if they were realizing an ‘International Evening’. They all appeared in their own traditional costumes- it includes ‘modern’ ones if we think them as a ‘new tradition’ -, traditional and ‘modern’ instruments all together in a

great harmony. I use quotation mark when I say ‘modern’ to something because you can only say something by positioning yourself in the discourse. [4] However I don’t want to be positioned either ‘west’ or ‘rest’. So quotation mark would be so beneficial to do so. So Nicole Mitchell with her flute and cellist with his ‘modern’ instrument dressed in a modern way. The others with their African instruments dressed traditionally. Everyone expressed oneself as what they are. The music started with the rhythm of xylophone. Xylophone made a repeating background rhythm and the others were adding their music into that rhythm. Thence the music had been created. The woman with a green traditional costume was swaying with the rhythm of the music, she was listening the music deeply in spite of being at the top of the stage and knowing that everyone was watching her. She turned her side to the audience, she was directly turning his face to who played at that time. Ignoring that she was at the stage and there were full of people watching her every step. I think she felt the music without considering any other. As if she didn’t have any concern to satisfy the audiences’ expectations. As if she was alone in the middle of nowhere. Then she started to ‘voice’. I couldn’t catch even a word that has a meaning in a classically speaking, but her voice contained a lot of feelings and accordingly meaning as well for me. As instruments, there were electronic guitar, xylophone, flute, cello and all played in a classical way- how they are supposed to be played-. They weren’t improvising the music. There was a prearranged structure for their songs. There was a great harmony. The first song was really gloomy but right after that gloomy song it started a super cheerful song. It was like shaking the gloomy atmosphere, history, pain that they all encountered in their lives in different forms out and making a start a fresh. The singers were dancing. They were doing some learned choreography. It made me remember Anatolian folk dance of my country Turkey. I thought it was also a kind of traditional folk dance. The song was in African language and although I didn’t understand any single word of the song I found myself smiling and swaying at my seat and I felt a great happiness. I think I understood the whole song because it was about me and about each of us. The other songs were in both African language and English at the same time. There was a great harmony in the songs with that bilinguality. Everyone including all the musicians seemed that they were having fun and most of them swaying with the rhythm. The singers were dancing gorgeously and after that Nicole Mitchell was also involved to dance as she was playing flute. They were saying:

I have been westernized

They took away

My feathers and beads

And gave me white Jesus

I dance to remember

I dance to remember’[5]

In my opinion the important thing was not the language or the classical structure of music or perfectionist tones or something else in their songs. I could

understand them independent from all those. Their music was something beyond all of them. They sang in multi languages at the same song, sometimes they

didn’t use even a word in order to be understood. There was each’ voice, dance, feelings, hope, dream. There was their music.

‘ We meet

together, inspiration

hearts open and

eyes wide with wondering

hands in the movement of making

shedding fears and dropping doubts

finding truth in each other’s essence

Can we find alignment

Can we step in ever winding faith can the music be our bridge? ‘[6]

It was a great mosaic of African and American culture and they could express both in the same stage, all together, harmoniously. Certainly the music was their bridge. A bridge which helps them to be In’n Out.

At the end of the song, they literally involved us- audiences- into the music. They asked us to repeat after them the rhythm. With the help of the atmosphere and shared feeling of the musical energy we could join them smoothly. Without any preparation, rehearsal and maybe some of us had never been involved any kind of musical activities before… I believe it has nothing to do with the ability of music, being the authority at music, not taking out of tones or something else related in any kind of normative definition of music. Yet it has all to do with being yourself, involving in what you feel freely, the notion of the true self, some real self inside there, hiding inside the husks of all the false selves that we present to the rest of the world. [7] We all had the courage to ‘dare to be ourselves’ right there. Everyone had the courage to voice up. There was no more silence. There was a war with a quite unusual way.

‘’Can you hear me?

I have lost your names

There is no more silence

There is war

We survive with laughter’’[8]

And it is a kind of guarantee of authenticity. Not until we get really inside and hear what the true self has to say do we know what we are “really saying.”[9]

[1] Hall, Stuart; Culture Globalization and the World-System; Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities.



[3] It means ‘yes’ in Turkish.

[4] Hall, Stuart; Culture, Globalization and the World-System; Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities.

[5] Beyond Black, song number 3/ My Ancestors

[6] Beyond Black, song number 1/ The Gift of This Moment

[7] Hall, Stuart; Culture, Globalization and the World-System; Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities

[8] Beyond Black, song number 3/ My ancestors

[9] Hall, Stuart; Culture, Globalization and the World-System; Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *